Comedian Erik Bergstrom May Be From Outer Space

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Why you should care

The world needs more lulz about Renaissance fairs and Insane Clown Posse.

“My grandpa gave me three newly minted state quarters and said that in his day, those quarters could buy him anything he could want to eat … I said that in his day, those quarters would have gotten him arrested for spending money from the future.”

In a stand-up comedy scene bursting with conversational, topical and situation-based hipsters cracking cynical and ironic about relationships, race and assorted annoyances of modern life, Erik Bergstrom is an anomaly. Come to think of it, he might well be an anomaly in any world he chooses to enter.

While most comics today bellow or whine or drone their way through stories about bad blind dates or dealing with the clerks at Whole Foods, Bergstrom tosses out disconnected contemporary Borscht Belt one-liners in a measured and cadenced baritone. He neither mugs nor sighs nor smiles — but simply recites a joke, pauses and then recites another. Compared with other acts, it’s a routine that might seem stiff and artificial, which of course it is, but deliberately so. At times it can feel like he has more than a little extraterrestrial in him. He’s a nerd’s comedian, one who doesn’t seem to worry about reaching that lowest common denominator, regularly crafting jokes smart and subtle enough to leave comedy-club audiences staring blank-eyed for a few long seconds until a couple of people finally click on the punch line.

“Thing about orphans is, they can never say, ‘I’m turning into my parents’ … until they’re dead.”

Along with comedy, Bergstrom does have a few other skills at his disposal. He’s a painter and illustrator, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker; his first book, Grimmer Tales: A Wicked Collection of Happily Never After Stories, was published in 2009. But with an approach to stand-up that’s so old-world as to be unique today, Bergstrom has been a regular fixture of the New York comedy clubs for the past decade. He covered the 2012 presidential campaign for Comedy Central and presently hosts the weekly Live From Outer Space (see?) stand-up show in Brooklyn as well as a monthly live talk show called Aftermirth. But Bergstrom’s performance style is not one that translates well for film or television. In another anomaly, unlike most of his colleagues, he’s clearly not bucking for his own sitcom or a spot on the Saturday Night Live cast. It’s a pure kind of stand-up, Henny Youngman with a sharper edge. And more jokes about Renaissance fairs and Insane Clown Posse.

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